Finding What You Need in the Kitchen Pantry

I’m just not sure I’ve mentioned enough just how much I hate not being able to find what I need.  I open the pantry door and grunt in frustration because I know the coconut oil is there and I need it.  But I can’t find it.  And then I have to move stuff around and things start falling on top of me.  AAAAAHHHHH!  You do not want to witness my melt down when that happens.  And when that happens, the girls know it’s time to clean the pantry.

The really nice thing about having a pantry organization system is that, when things start to “fall apart”, it takes a lot less time and effort to restore the system into good working order.  I have a family of humans.  I love them but they are not perfect (and that really rubs the perfectionist in me the wrong way).  This means that no matter how much I have strived to teach them to put things back in the “proper” place at some point things get “shoved here or there or anywhere”.  

I don’t think there is only one right way to organize a pantry and I don’t think there is a wrong way except maybe a way that makes no logical sense to the pantry owner and causes more headaches and frustration than no system at all.  

So I’ll share my system and you make any/all modifications necessary to make it your own system that works for you.

I’d like to come up with some sort of gimmicky statement that uses some type of catch phrase but it isn’t working for me.  The Best I can come up with is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

Here’s a before picture.  Well it’s an “after everything has its place but we’ve let it get out of hand and things aren’t in their place” picture:


In the above picture you can see that I have some plastic baskets and a couple of boxes.  I used the “corral and contain” principle.    I have all these little baggies and little jars of spices.  If I don’t corral them and keep them contained they will migrate all over the pantry.  Then I buy more cause I can’t find what I’m looking for.  *ugh*.  (See having an organized pantry can save you money as well as time!)  In the center white basket I keep the baggies of things like lemon pepper, garlic granules, Italian seasonings and other things.  In the basket on the right I keep the jars of spices like the Penzy spices I won in a giveaway.

<Rabbit Trail alert> I try to buy as many spices as I can in the bulk section because they are so much cheaper that way.  I have some spice jars in a spinning rack on my counter but I do not have enough jars for the different spices.  You can’t see the glass jar but I put baggies of spices that are “extra” in a glass jar behind the plastic wrap.  I pull those out to refill my spice rack jars. <end Rabbit Trail alert>

Maybe I should show you the after picture?  By after I mean after we’ve done a bit of straightening up because those little baggies were starting to migrate and other things (like the coconut oil) hadn’t been put back in the designated home.  But the cool thing with the above picture is that because we invested in organizing the basic structure was still there.  It doesn’t take hours and hours and tons of work to put it “back to rights”.


Here you can see two shelves.  The top shelf has boxed mixes like my biscuit mix and some cornbread mixes on the left.  The middle has large bottles like syrup and honey.  The right side has things like crackers and cereal.

The next shelf is my “cooking” shelf.  It has things like corn starch, spices, and drink mixes.  I use a plastic shelf to give me more space.   The perfectionist in me wanted to wait to organize everything until I had the perfect containers.  She cringes when she sees old boxes and jars being use to contain and corral, but I smile when I can easily grab the corn starch and thicken the sauce for dinner.

On the third shelf (no picture.  Sorry) I keep grains and pastas.  You’ll find oatmeal, farina, brown rice, white rice on the right and elbows, medium shells, egg noodles, and other pasta on the right.  In the center, because I ran out of room in the kitchen drawer, you’ll find various types of storage bags, from snack size to gallon size and freezer bags as well.  

<confession> I’ve been struggling with what to do with the bags.  They would migrate all over the pantry.  When we needed them we couldn’t find them.  I’ve been frustrated.  My oldest daughter’s been frustrated.  I knew I had purchased quart sized freezer bags and she could.not.find.them.  Guess what? I found them. Tucked behind some bag of some grain I haven’t identified.  Yes, in honor of this post I’ve been working on my pantry.  So now I have an empty microwave popcorn box (held 24 bags.. it’s long and skinny box) and it holds the boxes of bags.  They’ve been corralled and contained! <end confession>

The fourth (and last shelf) contains baking items.  Flour, sugar, powdered milk, baking chips etc.  It’s also the shelf we end up sticking the paper plates (on top of the infrequently used Whispermill).

On the flour of the pantry is my 18 qt roaster.  And misc. items that I can’t seem to find a home for.  More often than not the tortilla and potato chip bags end up down there (usually on top of the roaster.) 

Basically the key I have found is to decide what makes sense to me.  In my favorite book The Organizational Map, Pam McClellan mentions keeping items that you use together, together.  And then contain items.   Shoeboxes work great!  Those boxes that those Cuties come in also work great.

My pantry isn’t perfect but most of the time it works for me.  I have found that my system is evolves and grows.  You may have to play around a bit and try different ways before you find a system that works for you but it is well worth the time and effort! 




  1. Your system is very similar to mine. It probably is the most logical for cooks and bakers! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I need to do something with my pantry. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Help! I am going from a three bedroom house with a great pantry to a two bedroom house without a pantry. Eeek! Either I use some of the meager allotment of cabinets in the small kitchen or set up a small cabinet in the laundry room that adjoins the kitchen.

    Any ideas?

  4. Thank you for sharing your system. I love that you show and tell it in a real world way! Not a home magazine staged picture that I could never come close to, but a practical and frugal "real moms" pantry!

  5. Unfortunately, I tend to only organize when I am frustrated and overwhelmed :)
    Great ideas, thanks!


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